I looked over at the teacher.
“Robins, were you listening?”
“No.” I watched her face go a deep red, enjoying playing with the silly woman. I didn’t need to tell her that, yes, in fact I had been paying attention. I knew our history by heart and still strained to hear it, just in case I had missed something. I hated history class. We went over the same stuff over and over; I even had it all downloaded. I didn’t see the point to going to class just to review everything and take a silly quiz to make sure I could recall things in exact order. I knew it all already and saw class as a waste of time.
With one last glare Mrs. Avril began going over the multiple massacres in Sinclair in detail; to her it was some Big Deal. I didn’t know or care why. Something about the every five hundred years thing. As usual the teacher’s pet, Loup Sorne, raised his hand to answer the question. I tried to shake the violent impulse to stab him with my pencil. I had already taken most of my aggression out on my roommate this morning.
Or should I say ex-roommate? Oh, well. I wondered if anyone had noticed his absence yet. I guessed someone was looking. I wondered how long it would take someone to find his body. A few hours? I hoped they found him soon, I didn’t feel like dealing with the body when I got back to my room. And really, you gotta believe it wasn’t my fault. They kept giving me roommates who didn’t know how to stay alive. My parents should have been proud, I was doing this organization a favor. A Guard or Stalker that died on his or her first job was a waste of resources. I was just taking out the proverbial trash.
I won’t mention that it was a great deal of fun for me. Most of them had it figured that I was going to knock them off this mortal coil, they just didn’t know how or when. They were even too cocky to think that they could possibly ever die by my hands.
Fools, I didn’t even need my hands.
Take Cad for example: I’m sure he thought he was safe from me. We were both telekinetic after all. Oh, so much in common, true pals for sure.
Gimme a fucking break. I made his own sheets strangle the life from the bastard.
Ah, the board at the front of the class flashed a message signal. It was so innocent and helpful, but the second that Mrs. Avril laid her eyes on it, she glared my way. How kind of her to assume it was about me. Sure, I’d been to the Directors’ office many times now, but a little faith would have been nice once in a while. The rest of my class caught on, and a murmur quickly filled the silence. Everyone was so sure that the message was for me. I ignored them forcefully. Mrs. Avril touched the icon gently and pulled her angry green eyes from mine to read what the note said:
“Temps Robins is to report to the Directors’ office immediately.”
I continued to ignore them as the murmur grew to chatter. They had no right to get into my business. Nosy ingrates. They all had thought that they were “good Yin-Yang potential”. I had to agree with the rest of society and say that they were all just a bunch of glorified bums. My jaw clenched so tight that I had to concentrate on getting it to relax. My chest boiled with the familiar uncontainable rage again. I hated it when they talked about me like I wasn’t there. Hated it. I wanted to kill them all. I wanted to be rid of all their wide eyes and cruelly smiling faces.
I wanted to be left alone.
I had big plans of besting them all, but only when it mattered. Then they would have something to talk about: their own failure. I wasn’t interested in wasting my time at proving myself in this school. It was pathetic that they all tried so hard.
Mrs. Avril had finally found her voice and with a bitten off word, she dismissed me. I didn’t even look at her as I made my way to the door. It wasn’t that they mattered. I planned on showing them just that, soon enough. In the deserted hall I let my shoulders relax. I’d never admit to feeling worn out to myself, let alone anyone else. I couldn’t let them see me look so foolish and weak.
I left the class building and headed across the wide cement walkways across the Yin-Yang Complex. The Directors’ Estate was a huge white building with columns that ran along the whole facade. It had a little bit of a Victorian air and stood out against all of the other metallic towers that covered the rest of the complex. By metallic, I meant to say that the buildings were all covered in thin solar panels, they made the buildings look like giant mirrors. There was always a Tech citizen on the Complex doing some upgrade or other. So we had all we needed to download anything to our minds, and the most complex security system.
We went because we were told to, not because we wanted to. It was to “build character and bond with our fellows.”
It was a waste of time and that was that. Case closed.
I scanned my ID card at the door of the Directors’ front door and heard the lock click open. I let myself into the reception area. The young Yin-Yang behind the desk spared me a disgusted glare then tossed her black and white hair. She ignored my presence after that, like usual. It was hard to find people that tolerated me at that time, let alone anyone that -Aksa forbid- liked me. She, like others, insisted that the Directors were too soft on me. That they had no business showing such blatant favoritism.
I paid her my usual quip. “Fuck you, too,” and resumed living my life the way that I could. I didn’t need her judgment on something she knew nothing about. I went up the stairs, hardwood and polished, to the second floor where the Directors’ office was. I turned on the sunlit landing and padded down the soft carpet to their grand oak door. I scanned my ID once more to unlock the office door and opened it slowly. Just my luck that they were both there, I had been hoping that I might get away with dealing with only one of them. Not both. Both meant that I was in trouble for once, and I hated it when they both felt the need to point out my failures.
The thin, black-haired, black-eyed, solemn man regarded me with distaste. The shorter, white-haired, silver-eyed, expressive woman rolled her eyes at my entrance. They were Sylvain and Blanche Robins my dear ol’ father and mother. I was overly thin with similar features of my father, but shared my mother’s silver eyes. Unlike either of them, I wore the black and white hair of my fellow Yin-Yangs. My folks were the only people in Sinclair with just black or white hair.
My older sister was a Medic, with that clans red hair. Our parents were very proud of her. Dear Cherise Robins was already a great doctor, while I was still in training. My parents founded this complex, which meant I was always under their critical eyes. I envied my sister, but I didn’t have an ounce of dislike for her.
Cherise kept me sane when I thought I was already crazy, she reminded me that things always worked out in the end, and that my constant fear was not healthy. I knew it wasn’t healthy, but you couldn’t just tell yourself to stop feeling. Fear was all I felt, and I covered it with a good dose of rage when someone got too close. I think I got the violent tendencies from my father who executed over twenty people just to win the heart of my mother. Yeah, feel the love.
I stepped into the office with a studied air of disinterest. Mother sighed with her whole body and leaned back in her chair. The expansive windows behind her illuminated the room softly. Father stood off to the side, never being the one caught sitting.
“Temps,” my mother began.
In Sinclair it was custom that only those that were considered family called each other by their first names. Lovers adopted nicknames while the rest of the world was left with the impersonal use of one’s last name or a title. So why did my own name from my mother’s lips sounded wrong?
“I really don’t understand you. You act like you are a Carte Noire…” she meant a Black Card, she just likes using terms from the old language, “…most of the time, but there’s no reason for you to be this way. You aren’t missing part of your soul and Aksa does not control you or your thoughts. So why is it that you insist on acting as if you want nothing more than to kill everyone around you?”
She was close, but I could have never wished for the deaths of my family. I loved them as well as I could.
She went on. “It’s not healthy to be so angry all the time. Just ask your father. Though, it’s a bit obvious what happened in your room this morning, I wanted to hear it from you. What happened? And this time try not to feed us the same bullshit about liking your privacy. You don’t need it so badly that you can be excused for killing your clan mates.”
“I think it’s obvious, dear,” Father glared at me as he spoke to her. “Cad died because our son is a spoiled little brat.” His lips thinned into a spiteful smile. “Temps, you are a waste of time and space; of our very resources. We should have been so lucky to have your sister be born a Yin-Yang and not you. At least she is productive while you bully everyone.”
I sneered. “You’re right, Father. If only we had been so lucky. Then I would have been able to freeze a lot faster in her shadow.”
I caught the growl from my father. “I should Restart you right now! You worthless-!”
Mother cut in sharply, springing from her seat. “Sylv!” she scolded. “Shut the fuck up.” With her silver eyes looking akin to glinting blades, my father stood down and turned his back to us. She gave him one final exasperated look then focused once more me. At least I was down to one of them. “It says in the report that they found Cad an hour ago. He was clearly strangled by his bed covers. So I must ask you, did you kill Lucien Cad?”
“You realize the fact that you have no friends is your own fault? Cad was a considerate young man, a fellow telekinetic as well. And yet you threw that away. If you ever meet him again as a civilian, I wouldn’t ask him any favors if I were you.”
“I don’t plan on it, Mother.”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course not.”
After standing there for over a minute in silence I got restless. “Mother?”
“Are you going to tell me my punishment, or shall I leave you two alone?” I said.
Mother scowled. “Don’t get smart with me young man. Your punishment is as follows: in addition to all the other chores you’ve been assigned, you will be doing janitorial services for two months on the Complex.”
My father turned and met my eyes squarely. His were ice cold and hid no love in the black depths. “Your new roommate will be joining you in the morning.”
I gave him a little bow on impulse. “Yes, Father.” I was already wondering how long it would take to kill this new one. A week? More? I really hoped it was just a couple days; I wanted to make a point and I really could use the sleep that I could only get in an empty room. I wanted more time to myself. When the roommate lasted too long I had to sleep in the Directors’ office because I never felt safe sleeping in the same room as someone else. I couldn’t relax if I heard someone breathing. Movement of any sort sent my heart thundering in my chest until I escaped. It didn’t matter that I was unbelievably lonely, at least I didn’t have to keep one eye open.
The new chores that I had been given weren’t that big of a deal. I would be done with my kitchen duty by the end of the week. I knew they would all be glad to see me go. I could cook, prep and serve food with the best of them, but made sure to fuck it all up for the sake of a good time.
My father spared me another disparaging look; I was clearly dismissed.
I barely kept myself from rolling my eyes, touching as ever. I gave him a nod and went around the desk to give my mother a kiss. Smiling, she returned the peck on my cheek. I loved my mother. I respected what they both had done for Sinclair and what they were still doing to make the lives of so many people safer. If they hadn’t seen the potential and the way that Yin-Yangs could be a benefit to society… there would be many Cartes without decks, hunted down by the Govs and their lapdog Policers. I really was trying to make them proud, but the suffocating rage that was embedded in me was always getting me into trouble.
I looked at the clock on the wall once I closed the door behind me. Class was over and it was time to check into my yard chore. It was the one chore that I found I enjoyed. I wasn’t cleaning up someone else’s garbage or their clothing. I wasn’t serving their gaping mouths and filling their stomachs. I was doing good for the Complex as a whole. I worked under the direction of a single Envio, and that allowed me to pretend that I did my work just for my parents. The Envio was a stout old man that didn’t talk much, but loved his plants. That passion was rubbing off on me some. I admired nature’s vitality and strength, it left me lifting my head to the sky and drinking in the sun light when I found myself alone. I wasn’t doing any work for the students, I couldn’t stand all the lazy stutards.
I made my way downstairs and blew a kiss to the receptionist. She flatly ignored me. My steps felt lighter as I reached the outdoors. The sun was still shining brightly and the grass was emerald. If it hadn’t been for the streams of students making their way outside to enjoy the good weather, it would have been a perfect moment. To my right they were already organizing a tag game. It was an excuse to show off their Skills to each other. It seemed unfair to me, though, since the ones with flight and speed Skills had an incredible advantage over the rest of the Yin-Yangs. As a telekinetic, there was no way in hell I would have joined in one of those games. It wasn’t fair, but nothing had been fair since the Dusk War had sent Sinclair running into isolation.
The Govs said things were incredibly fair. But I didn’t like the fact that no one had any say in any of life’s biggest decisions. We didn’t choose our jobs even though I knew -from downloads- that there used to be a choice there. It seemed so weird, but wonderful. I envied that way of life. As students we got our uniforms and new casual clothes four times a year, as well as basic living supplies. Directors, like my parents, meant a house and a staff of representatives from each clan to help run things.
I reached my gardening post, and my good mood was fouled by the Yin-Yangs hanging about. I spent the duration of my chore listening to the chatter and shouts from my fellows. The sun beat down on me unpleasantly. Sweat slid down my spine, over the tattoo I bore that wrapped over my left shoulder then trailed down the center of my back to my hips. My short hair became a mess from the dirt and stickiness of my scalp. My world dimmed down to the plunging of my shovel and the pulling of the weeds that got in the way. The chatter droned on in my ears. I only caught select words and not sentences. It was grating away at my nerves. The dirt stuck under my nails and though I had been doing yard work for a good month, my thin fingers and small hands were not used to this punishment. Normally I didn’t notice until I was done working, now I couldn’t help but take note of my cracked skin and broken nails. I was much tanner than I had been when I started this job, and made sure to take my shirt off so I wouldn’t get an odd tan line, like I saw on others who worked in the yards. But this also left my tattoo exposed to anyone who walked by, labeling me a telekinetic. No one gave me any notice anyway and I liked that just fine.
Cad had the same tattoo as me. What had made Cad and I different was our patron gods. Aksa had chosen me and I surmised that Cad had been chummy with some wisdom god. Like the author of the text we had been reviewing in class had guessed, my father was, in fact attached to the god Thanatos. If not for my mother’s influence, I’m sure Thanatos would still be doing his best to destroy Sinclair to make it his and start a new nation. On the other hand, Mother was more than just a speed- or flight-Skilled woman. She was flexible and agile as well, and it was amazing to see her use her Skills. It was almost like she controlled gravity’s hold on her, making it her pet. I would rather fight my father than my mother. She would kill you so quick you wouldn’t see it coming until the soul collector, Sang, came along and took you on to the gates of Heaven and Hell.
My mind wandered as I finished my duty. When it was over I went to the cafeteria, got a plastic-wrapped muffin and went to my empty room. I left my meal on my tall captain’s bed and grabbed my shower supplies from my closet.
The showers and toilets were down the hall and I hated having to share them. It was disgusting when I thought about how many naked bits had been exposed in both rooms. Nightmare inducing, I’m telling you, but I didn’t have a choice. There was no one there since most students were at dinner at that time. It was so nice to stand there and let the hot water scald my skin red and clean. The tension and rage pooled at my feet as I relaxed. I could finally breathe a little easier. I just stood under the torrent for a good fifteen minutes before I reluctantly turned off the water. My shower must have taken at least forty-five minutes in all.
I wrapped my plain white towel around my narrow hips and padded down the hall.
“Where are you going, Robins?”
Damn, I knew I couldn’t be lucky enough to get to my room in my satisfied mood. I turned to see who was bothering me, my muscles were already tensing for a fight. I scowled at the tall, thin and green-eyed Yin-Yang that hung out in his open doorway. “Good evening, Jacques.”
He sneered down at me. “It was good until I saw you, at least. You look disgusting, though, and I think I’m going to lose my lunch if I have to look at your ribs any longer. Go put some clothes on, you sick fuck.” His smile was malicious. “Or better yet, how about I help you Restart?”
The Jacques twins always gave me shit if I crossed their paths. I liked his sister more than I liked Vas Jacques, but I still hated them both. “Go fuck yourself, Jacques. Or did I just hear your sister calling you? I hear twins can really get off on each other.”
I saw the rage in his eyes, but I was well past him in that emotional department. I wanted so badly to just kill him where he stood. But he wouldn’t be able to defend himself properly. His Skill was more of a supportive Skill than that of a combative one. Mine was whatever I wanted it to be. He knew this, too, and broke our eye contact first.
To his right, Vas Jacques growled. “You’re lucky, Robins, or we would have all killed you in your sleep a long time ago.”
I rest my case. Sleeping at someone else’s mercy was not on my list of things to do. It wasn’t ever going to be. I lived … with my pathetic version of life. At that point in my life it was them or me, and I always chose me. I didn’t want to be a civilian, I didn’t have any special skills that would designate a job class for me. I was nothing but a Yin-Yang, and that’s all I wanted to be.
I made my way to my room with no more attention paid to Jacques. When I got there, I scanned my card and let myself in. I gazed over at Cad’s empty side and wondered what kind of civilian job he had ended up with. The Govs told us over and over, we got the jobs we would excel in, so why did some of us become Yin-Yangs? What were we supposed to be good at? Killing? With the restrictions that the Govs put on the color-coded entry system for both buildings and data, they kept us all in cages that felt a lot like freedom. The Policers were the Govs loyal guard dogs and the Govs hated, and I mean hated, the Yin-Yang clan. We were able to get past their restrictions because of our lack of color. We could go anywhere and learn all we wanted to. Only those we invited into the more private areas of the Complex could get in and we liked it that way.
The worst part was that even though the civilians hated us because they were told to, Yin-Yangs looked down on them for following the Govs so blindly. But, how was this going to help our eventual integration into the civilian ranks? My parents told me that I wasn’t making friends by killing off my fellow students, but neither were they for cutting themselves off from the rest of Sinclair like an echo of Sinclair’s isolation after the Dusk War. Their condescending attitude grated on my nerves. When I thought about the civilians… I admired them. They didn’t have Skills to make life easier, nor a patron god to protect them or grant them a second life. And yet they kept going strong. If they weren’t so strong, our society would fall to pieces. I hated dealing with people personally, and I hated Yin-Yangs as a matter of course, but I wished no ill on the civilians… I wanted to protect them. Not as a Policer, but as Temps Robins. I would never take orders from the Govs. I hated them.
I crawled into bed after dragging on a pair of boxers and tossing my muffin to the floor. I wasn’t hungry enough to bother unwrapping it. I slept disgustingly well that night and didn’t find myself being woken up from any noises. The second my head had hit the pillow, I was asleep. That had only happened to me a dozen times or less in the last three years and it was fantastic.
Until I began dreaming.